October 27, 2021–– Verizon and Amazon announced Tuesday they are partnering to expand rural broadband access across the United States.
The partnership will involve Verizon using Amazon’s satellite internet system, called Project Kuiper, to extend its terrestrial service.
Project Kuiper has a network of 3,236 satellites from which it plans to provide high-speed broadband around the world.
Amazon has not launched its satellites, but has said it plans to invest more than $10 billion in the project. The Federal Communications Commission authorized the project last year, finding that the Kuiper system would benefit the public by “increasing the availability of broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses”
Amazon plans to launch the thousands of satellites into low earth orbit, which is expected to provide faster connections and better communication times compared to satellites higher up in the sky. Amazon said it will deploy the satellites in five phases, with broadband service beginning after 578 satellites are in orbit.
Broadband an existential matter for U.S. agricultural sector
A new analysis by the Benton Institute found that the digital divide slows progress for American farmers.
The article, authored by Jordan Arnold, found that broadband access and market competition prevents greater adoption numbers and limits options for farmers. The study found that 78 percent of farmers do not have another viable option to change service providers. Among farmers that Arnold interviewed, a consensus was established that farmers need robust upload speeds, accurate network deployment data, and scalable technologies.
“Only 82 percent of farms have internet service in any form,” Arnold found. “On average, 70 percent of Hispanic-operated farms, 66 percent of American Indian–or Alaska Native-owned farms, and 62 percent of Black-owned farms have internet access.”
Broadband access is critical to agricultural sustainability because connected technologies allow farmers to measure their inputs and outputs, allowing for more efficient resource management Arnold argues that deploying broadband ubiquitously across the farming sector unlocks powerful benefits to minimizing farming’s environmental impact.
Social work advocacy should help address digital divide
A University of Kansas professor co-authored an article Tuesday arguing that the social work field should be included in the fight to close the digital divide.
Scanlon argues as such because social work serves and advocates for marginalized and underrepresented communities.
“The digital divide is not just a policy or infrastructure issue. It is a social justice matter in that lack of access disproportionately affects people of color, low-income individuals and families, and those who live in rural areas” wrote Edward Scanlon, associate professor of social welfare at University of Kansas.
Similar to the way the field advocates for underserved communities “in terms of child-care, health care access, mental health,” Scanlon said policy leaders should focus on the divide as a high priority social justice issue. “Social workers need to advocate like they do for mental health, issues of race, fighting poverty and those traditional causes.”
Scanlon said that the problem would be addressed with a consistent national strategy similar to the New Deal era push to introduce electricity adoption ubiquitously across the U.S.
“This really is a problem that’s national in nature and needs to be seen as part of infrastructure, just like bridges and roads” Scanlon said.
Universal Service Fund Bill, Private-Public Era, USTelecom Expands Team, Giving Tuesday
A bill introduced this month requires the FCC to investigate the need to expand base of Universal Service Fund.
WASHINGTON, November 30, 2021 – Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, has introduced a bill this month to study whether the Universal Service Fund should broaden its contribution base to ensure the contribution requirement is imposed more equitably.
The “Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act of 2021” – co-introduced with Sens. John Thune, R-South Dakota, John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas – requires that the Federal Communications Commission conduct a study on assessing the need to expand the contribution base of the USF, a program that funds basic telecommunications services to rural, remote and low-income communities, and to submit a report to Congress on the results.
The legislation asks to “ensure that the contribution requirement” under the Communications Act of 1934 is “imposed fairly and equitably.”
The bill has been read twice and was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. If the bill is passed in the committee, it will move on to a vote in the Senate. Should it pass with no amendments, the bill will then move onto the House where it will be voted on again.
The bill was introduced to the Senate on Nov. 18, 2021, and as of Tuesday, no further action has been taken on the bill.
On Monday, 254 organizations representing a swath of public interest groups, anchor institutions and telecommunications companies signed a letter to Washington policymakers to sustain the program by broadening the USF’s contribution base – which relies on declining voice service revenues – to include broadband revenues.
New ‘era’ for broadband
In a Tuesday op-ed for the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, Joanne Hovis, Ryland Sherman, and Marc Schulhof coined the past two years as “The Era of Broadband Public-Private Partnership,” following the “wave” of collaboration between public and private entities as Americans search more desperately than ever for means to bridge the digital divide.
The authors of the op-ed attributed the dawn of this era to four primary components: an influx of capital, a desire to invest in broadband infrastructure at the state and federal level, a sense of urgency to invest in broadband, a newfound willingness to operate with different types of internet service providers.
Though all these conditions existed prior to the pandemic, the authors argue that the pandemic was largely responsible for driving much of the urgency and demonstrated “to American policymakers the absolute need for plentiful connectivity and the crises faced by those who don’t have it — and simultaneously demonstrated to private investors the economic potential of best-in-class, future-proof broadband.”
In the view of the authors, public-private efforts represent win-win situations, whereby consumers are able to finally get the broadband coverage they need, and private entities are able to receive a greater return on their investment that may not otherwise be possible in certain regions and communities.
“The potential for public-private collaboration changes that binary and attracts private investment to areas where return is low or nonexistent but can be improved through collaboration with the local community,” the op-ed states. “And the potential for collaboration unlocks local public investment in already-served communities where policymakers want better broadband but prefer to do so in partnership with the private sector.”
The authors also recently published a new report covering these trends.
US Telecom expands their government affairs team
The Broadband Association announced the promotion of Hawley Stanton to senior director of Government Affairs. Additionally, Diana Eisner was made vice president of Policy and Advocacy, and Nicole Henry was made senior director of Government Affairs.
“I am thrilled to welcome new team members Diana Eisner and Nicole Henry and to announce a well-deserved promotion for Hawley Stanton. They are talented, experienced and ready to help advance our shared broadband priorities in 2022 and beyond,” said USTelecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter.
Giving Tuesday appeals
Organizations from across the telecom industry have rolled out their Giving Tuesday appeals, asking from members of their communities to donate what they can in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The trend started back in 2012 as a way for communities to show their appreciation, thanks, and charity on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. In 2020 alone, nearly $2.5 billion was given to various institutions in the U.S.
Though telecom advocacy only makes up a percentage of that total, groups have pointed out how important their work is as the Covid-19 pandemic continues into its third year.
Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
Sohn and Biden NTIA nominee Alan Davidson will undergo confirmation hearings next Wednesday.
November 24, 2021 – The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee for commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn, during a session next Wednesday.
Sohn, a former senior aide to President Barack Obama’s FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, will have her nomination considered along with Alan Davidson, Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That same day, the Commerce Committee also plans to vote on the nomination of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to another term at the FCC.
Sohn’s nomination has already faced Republican criticism over her liberal policy positions.
Through nine months of the Biden presidency, the FCC has not been able to address key issues due to the vacancy on the commission resulting in a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. Sohn’s confirmation would make for a full slate that prevents tied votes of the commission.
Going forward, net neutrality policy would be a key focus of the FCC, as Rosenworcel told senators during her confirmation hearing that she backed net neutrality rules yet did not offer many details on how she would rollback such rules by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Congress’ regulatory proposals would create even larger tech monopolies than already exist: Opinion
American Enterprise Institute published a blog post Wednesday by nonresident senior fellow Mark Jamison critiquing as unproductive recent government proposals to regulate competition among tech companies.
Jamison states that “dynamic” competition already exists between the companies often cited as the giants of the tech industry and smaller companies, and that proposed government policy could decrease industry competition from its current levels.
In his blog post, Jamison says that the Ending Platform Monopolies Act from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, would force Amazon to stop selling its own products, leading it to lose uniqueness and become almost identical to eBay in a digital market that cannot support two identical services. Jamison contends that should one site go under, small businesses would be left with less competitive options than before the introduction of the bill.
Further, Jamison holds that should Amazon comply with the bill and cease operations with small businesses, market statistics show that eBay would face even less competition as a platform for small businesses than Amazon does now.
Jamison said he believes that the Open App Markets Act – brought forth by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota – would make iPhones less secure by requiring that app stores other than Apple’s be permitted on phones. He says this would decrease users’ willingness to try new apps and diminish competition between Apple and Alphabet (Google) for app developers by removing developer options.
New ILSR community broadband outreach team lead
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance announced Tuesday that DeAnne Cuellar will serve as Community Broadband Outreach team lead.
Cuellar, a communications strategist, served as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s digital inclusion appointee to the city’s Innovation and Technology Committee. In her work for the city, she acted on several policy and funding priorities to close the digital divide.
Additionally, she has worked as a social impact entrepreneur, co-founding several cross-sector nonprofit initiatives to advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in historically underrepresented communities.
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative expects that they will see an increased workload as local, state and federal governments increase their efforts to find broadband solutions and an “unprecedented” amount of funding is made available by the government for broadband infrastructure projects over the next few years.
TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
TPI released their broadband map, which tracks speeds, availability, and adoption rates across the country.
November 23, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute announced Monday the beta release of their “TPI Broadband Map,” which tracks bandwidth speeds, the availability of broadband, and adoption rates from across the country.
The map allows users to access published data from several sources, including FCC 477 forms, Emergency Broadband Benefit data, Ookla, Microsoft, and more.
The data can also be viewed on several different levels from the state and country level, all the way down to school districts, tribal tracts, and zip codes.
Three metrics can be viewed through the map: average maximum available download and upload speeds and the percent of households with broadband access. Users can also adjust the minimum upload and download speeds to suit their definition of broadband and are able to view the regional data going back to 2016.
During the TPI Aspen Forum in August, panelists agreed that mapping would play a crucial role in ensuring that marginalized, underserved, and unserved communities would get the coverage and resources they need from infrastructure legislation.
Though the website is still in its beta stage, those interested can request temporary access to view the data online.
Justice Department defends Section 230
In a departure from the previous administration’s agenda and President Joe Biden’s own past statements, Biden’s Justice Dept. made a point to defend Section 230 in a lawsuit brought against Facebook by Donald Trump.
In May, Biden had previously revoked one of Trump’s executive orders aimed at dismantling Section 230. Though his campaign and administration used it to a greater extent than many other politicians, Trump was a longtime critic of social media, often accusing it of censoring conservative voices in American politics.
These criticisms came to a head after Trump was banned from Twitter and several other social media outlets in January of 2021.
While on the campaign trail, Biden himself called for the revocation of Section 230.
Notwithstanding Biden’s and Trump’s dissatisfaction with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Justice Department intervened to defend the section during litigation surrounding Trump’s Facebook lawsuit – one of three class action lawsuits Trump filed in July against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, along with their CEOs.
Ericsson eyes Vonage
Ericsson, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of 5G technology and hardware, is poised to purchase Vonage, a cloud communications provider, in a deal valued at approximately $6.2 billion.
“Ericsson and Vonage have a shared ambition to accelerate our long-term growth strategy,” said Vonage CEO Rory Read, ““We believe joining Ericsson is in the best interests of our shareholders and is a testament to Vonage’s leadership position in business cloud communications, our innovative product portfolio, and outstanding team.”
Ericsson said it intends to leverage Vonage’s presence in the communication platform as a service, or CPaaS, market to “democratize network access by offering [Application Programming Interface] enabled communications services.” Additionally, Ericsson stated that it expects the CPaaS market to reach $22 billion by 2025, growing 30 percent annually.
Should the deal pass successfully, Vonage will “become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ericsson and will continue to operate under its existing name.”
- Colorado and Virginia Lead In Consumer Privacy Legislation, Still Need Federal Law, Conference Hears
- New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project
- Federal Trade Commission Should Make Privacy Rules Against ISP Data Collection, Experts Say
- Universal Service Fund Bill, Private-Public Era, USTelecom Expands Team, Giving Tuesday
- FCC Eliminates Emergency Broadband Benefit Enrollment Freeze
- Advocates Call for Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues
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